Skip to main content

Which Esri mobile app should I use for field data collection?

With spring arriving, it’s time for spring cleaning! But before you declutter, it’s best to take inventory first. Read on to find out which Esri mobile application is best suited to your field data collection process—and which apps you can leave behind.

So you want to gather data in the field using Esri technology. Great news! But which application is best suited to your needs? After all, there are a lot of applications to choose from—it can be hard to know what’s best.

A comprehensive list of ArcGIS applications, featuring logos for all the applications as well as their names. The applications include ArcGIS StoryMaps, Survey123, Workforce, Dashboards, QuickCapture, Field Maps Designer, Field Maps Designer Early Access, Experience Builder, Living Atlas, and 14 others. The image is mainly provided to illustrate the sheer number of apps available to ArcGIS users.

When it comes to fieldwork, you might have heard of ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, ArcGIS Experience Builder, ArcGIS Dashboards, ArcGIS Collector, ArcGIS Navigator, ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Workforce, ArcGIS Tracker, ArcGIS Field Maps, ArcGIS Survey123 or ArcGIS QuickCapture. And this is still only a subset of the applications available for field data collection.

Let’s review some of the more common apps to get you started.

What not to use: apps that help you make other apps

First, let’s talk about applications you shouldn’t use. These ones simply aren’t optimized for field data collection and won’t offer the functionality you need.

The logo for ArcGIS Web AppBuilder: three teal lines swirling around a teal hexagon.ArcGIS Web AppBuilder enables you to create web applications, but it’s not optimized for field use. Web AppBuilder will also be retired in 2025, its successor being ArcGIS Experience Builder.

The logo for ArcGIS Experience Builder: a teal hexagon with two L-shaped cutouts surrounding a small rectangle in the centre.ArcGIS Experience Builder is now Esri’s main web-based app creator. Like ArcGIS Web AppBuilder, it’s not optimized for field data collection.

The logo for ArcGIS Navigator: an orange hexagon with a cutout shaped like a diamond-shaped road sign overlaid on top. The road sign contains an arrow pointing the way forward.ArcGIS Dashboards enables you to summarize scenarios using maps, charts, tables and other widgets. It can’t be used to collect data, but you can use it to display the results of your data collection activities.

That leaves us with applications that are optimized (and even designed) for fieldwork. 

What not to use: retired apps

These apps are either retired or on their way out. If you’re working with any of these, make sure to migrate your workflows to a modern application and reap the benefits of Esri’s advanced GIS technology.

The logo for ArcGIS Collector: a blue hexagon with a cutout shaped like a clipboard overlaid on top.ArcGIS Collector is a map-centric data collection application, the functionality of which has been integrated into ArcGIS Field Maps. Don’t use Collector on your new projects! If you still use it, the time is now to migrate your projects to Field Maps.

The logo for ArcGIS Navigator: an orange hexagon with a cutout shaped like a diamond-shaped road sign overlaid on top. The road sign contains an arrow pointing the way forward.ArcGIS Navigator allows you to plan routes using your own network. Plans are in motion to integrate it into Field Maps. Think of this as a fully customizable and offline version of Apple Maps or Google Maps.

The logo for ArcGIS Explorer: a green hexagon with a cutout shaped like a globe overlaid on top. A cutout arrow pointing the way wraps around the globe.ArcGIS Explorer is a mobile read-only GIS viewer. Don’t use the standalone app! Its functionality has been integrated into Field Maps. You shouldn’t use it anymore and should instead migrate to Field Maps.

The logo for ArcGIS Workforce: a red hexagon with a folder-shaped cutout overlaid on top. On top of the folder is an arrow indicating a way forward.ArcGIS Workforce is an application used to coordinate mobile work and assign tasks to mobile workers in real time. It can be useful when planning and assigning tasks in real time. Plans are in motion to integrate it into Field Maps.

The logo for ArcGIS Tracker: a turquoise hexagon with a cutout shaped like a wiggly arrow overlaid on top.ArcGIS Tracker is an application that allows mobile workers to securely share their location with their organization. It enables improved fieldwork management, increased safety and better coordination among teams. Tracker’s functionality has been integrated into Field Maps, so don’t use the standalone app. If you still use this application, you should migrate to Field Maps.

Use these! The best apps for field data collection

Finally, we’re down to the apps you want gracing that lovely new tablet sitting on your desk: ArcGIS Field Maps, ArcGIS Survey123 and ArcGIS QuickCapture. But which of the three should you choose? The answer depends on the needs of your specific project. All three applications will allow you to go out on the field, gather data, and synchronize and store that data in your web portal. Each application could potentially work for any of your projects, but may have more specialized functionality that could make it a better fit for you.

The logo for ArcGIS Field Maps: a blue hexagon with a cutout overlaid on top that is shaped like a road map. An arrow is overlaid on top that points the way.ArcGIS Field Maps, for instance, allows you not only to gather and edit data, view maps directly in the application in read-only mode and share your location securely, it also gives you a lot more freedom when editing geometry. If what you care more about in your data collection project is the geometry, then Field Maps, the map-centric application, is the one for you.

A screenshot of ArcGIS Field Maps in dark mode. ArcGIS Field Maps is a mobile app, and so the image is in portrait mode, like the surface of a smartphone screen. The top half of the screenshot shows part of a roadmap that also shows the buildings along the road. On top of each building is an icon indicating the level of damage to each building: no damage, superficial damage, minor damage, destroyed and so on. The bottom half of the screenshot shows a menu called “Layers” that allows the user to toggle layers of the map on and off.

The logo for ArcGIS Survey123: a green hexagon with a cutout representing a spiral-bound notebook overlaid on top. On top of the spiral-bound notebook there’s a checkmark.ArcGIS Survey123 is an incredible application. If you want to replace your paper forms, autocomplete some answers, do calculations on the fly and have simple, moderate or complex forms for your project, Survey123 is the application for you. It’s the form-centric application that will revolutionize your data gathering. If a form or attribute table is the most important part of your project, choose Survey123.

A screenshot of an ArcGIS Survey123 application titled “Quick Tree Hazard Survey”. The description of the survey reads “Quickly report hazardous trees. Accurately map the location of the tree, and categorize and document the hazard with notes and photos.” The visible parts of the application then ask the user to supply the date they completed the survey, the location of a given surveyed tree according to GPS as well as whether the tree represents a hazard.

The logo for ArcGIS QuickCapture: an orange hexagon with a cutout representing a map pin overlaid on top of it. The map pin has speed lines behind it, suggesting it’s moving quickly.ArcGIS QuickCapture, like its name suggests, is quick. If you don’t want to overcomplicate the data gathering process, or if you don’t want your mobile workers to spend time completing long forms or drawing lines or points, then QuickCapture is the right choice for your project. It has the simplest interface of all three recommended apps. This button-centric application will allow you and your colleagues to gather data quickly and easily.

A screenshot of the ArcGIS QuickCapture mobile application, with the title “Windshield Damage A…”. There are a number of blue buttons on the screen representing a variety of causes that might be responsible for the windshield damage being assessed: wires down, tree on wires, pole down, broken crossarm, right-of-way issues, debris, XFMR damage or something else.

To find out more about those applications and to see how to implements them, try out our instructor-led training courses:

Don’t see the course you’re looking for here? Explore our course catalogue to see our full list of offerings.

Want to stay informed about all the latest training opportunities at Esri Canada? Visit Esri Canada’s Communication Preference Centre and select the “Training” checkbox to get a monthly roundup straight to your inbox.

About the Author

Guillaume Arnoux Hébert is a Senior Certified Instructor with Esri Canada's National Training Team. His focus as a bilingual instructor is to deliver Esri Canada's course catalogue in both official languages.

Profile Photo of Guillaume Arnoux Hébert